Monday, 9 December 2013

Heigh ho heigh ho

New Model Army: Great Expectations (BBC session 1983).  Perfect!

It was time to get a proper job. I'd left the illustration course early, many months before, as I knew I'd never be able to do it for a living (!) and now I needed to earn some real money. True, I'd managed to bring in a few quid here and there in other ways* but they weren't going to keep me in pickled onion Monster Munch and Star Bars, never mind the very real threat of homelessness hanging over me.  Having failed to get the job I didn't want but went for anyway at the supermarket, I was getting seriously worried about my future. Then I saw the ad for a sales assistant at a new record shop opening in a nearby town and it sounded perfect; right up my music-loving street.

Some weeks later and I'd been invited for an interview, which turned out to be a very pleasant, enthusiastic chat - mostly about music, naturally - with the friendly, easy-to-talk-to young man who'd be managing the branch. I don't think I could have been happier or more excited when he rang the following month to offer me the position. Yes. YES! YESSS! I doubt that my delighted acceptance was at all unexpected, although he was perhaps surprised when I told him I had a different surname now since I'd casually married in the interim...

Anyway, just before that Christmas I started my first official, full-time, permanent job in an independent record shop, staffed – quite unusually for the time – by three young women (each with different musical tastes) under the guidance of our lovely and very knowledgeable manager. I've written a little about it before on here so I won't add more now, except to say that this month is a significant anniversary since that record shop opened its shutters and I served my very first customer (a skinhead, I seem to remember).

Thirty years just go by in a flash, don't they?!

40 hours a week for £3640 a year? Nothing much has changed!

* Such as....
- Taping my voice reciting pages from a legal textbook at the request of  a man studying for a law degree
 Modelling at my old art school, seated on a table, fully clothed, having to keep dead still while the students portrayed me in clay
-  Photocopying my macabre ink drawings and selling them as 'gothic stationery' through an advert in the  NME

14 comments:

  1. It was a lot of our dreams to own/work in a record shop and both you and the Swede achieved it, so hats of to you two. It must have been fun. Doing somthing you really like to earn money must be as good as it gets!

    Sixty years just go by in a flash, don't they?!

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    1. It was absolutely brilliant to be surrounded by music, and to work with some lovely fellow music fans - but I think it would be fair to say that, like most things, it had its downsides - in the form of obnoxious customers, mainly. (I'm pretty sure all record shop employees would agree with me there!)
      Opening up the exciting new deliveries, hearing things for the very first time, quiet moments in the shop when you could play the music of your choice no matter how obscure, helping out a lovely, grateful, polite customer - brilliant. Dealing with those few abusive, lying, thieving, patronising, sexist, drugged-up, impatient or completely mad human beings - not so!!! Luckily they were in the minority!

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  2. You must have had many 'High Fidelity' moments? Do tell.

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    1. Yes indeed, John. There are one or two reminiscences sprinkled about in the archives of this blog, but I'm sure I could find a few more to tell. "All human life..." etc.!

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  3. I never worked in a record store but lots of clothes shops (big and very small) over the years and we seem to have had the exact same customers! £3,640 a year, tee hee... I hope you invested that wisely ;o)

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    1. It must just be certain customers, mustn't it?! I was chatting to a very bright, cheery, articulate and helpful girl at the checkout in Tesco the other day who expressed her gratitude at the simple fact that I smiled at her! She then proceeded to tell me about some previous customers' impatient, grumpy and patronising attitudes just because she was on THAT side of the counter, and it rang some bells.
      Some months after getting that first job we were able to move into our first rented flat in a pretty crappy area of town, but looking at that salary now I'm wondering what on earth we can have paid in rent!

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    2. yeah, rents used to be crazy low back then though. THOSE WERE THE DAYS! I used to get my tiny shop girl wage in a little brown sealed envelope and it was like a lottery win... of course it always ran out just before the next pay day so I ate a lot of Pot Noodles, but I really enjoyed myself.

      I think some people just see shop workers as underachievers and don't realise that we all have fulfilling lives, thank you very much. I think only waiters and waitresses get more attitude. Didn't Einstein work at the patents office? I bet he could have told some stories about grumpy customers!

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    3. Hear hear!
      And I love that about Einstein, I didn't know that.

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  4. I've never worked in retail - in fact I've been incredibly lucky and worked in very cushy overpaid IT related office based jobs all my working life... it's all been rather pointless sadly - there is a point you get to (well I have) when you look at what you are doing and you look back at what you've done and wonder at the futility of it all.

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    1. I think retail is tougher than it seems, at least if you're conscientious! I know there are plenty of unhelpful sales staff too, so a little humility on both sides of the counter goes a long way.
      But we shouldn't feel defined by what we do to earn money (unless we actively want to be) - for most it's simply a means to an end and it's how we are as people, and what we do in other aspects of our lives which really counts, in my view!

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  5. We need to hear more about those pre-record shop money-making schemes C, the gothic stationary sounds intriguing! Now what was I up to 30 years ago? I do remember that my own boss around that time was a complete pain.....!

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    1. If only more bosses knew how to treat their staff! I was one of the lucky ones :-)

      (The gothic stationery was fun and actually sold rather well; I should have kept some!)

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  6. Are those old ads anywhere to be found?

    I didn't have my specs...and it took a couple of reads before I realized you weren't being paid 36,400 pounds a year to work in a record shop...like a triple take! Ha

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    Replies
    1. Oh, imagine that! I could have done a couple of months' work and then retired!

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